If you have purchased a piece of diamond jewellery from Tiffany & Co., you would most certainly have been a beneficiary of the brand’s new diamond source initiative, which was created to increase the transparency of its sourcing chain.
Under the new initiative, every consumer can trace each and every one of Tiffany’s individually-registered diamonds—that is, all diamonds 0.18 carats and larger—back to their region or countries of origin. Said provenance information will be available on their Tiffany diamond certificates and displayed in global merchandising caselines of the Love & Engagement collection. The information will also be available to consumers via the sales professionals on the floor, or through customer service.
Furthermore, Tiffany has also committed to 100 per cent geographic transparency for every newly-sourced, individually-registered diamond, and will not truck any diamonds with unknown provenance moving forward, even if responsible sourcing is assured. In specific cases, such as for heritage stones predating their new policy, Tiffany will provide assurance that the diamond was sourced with industry leading practices.
This initiative is part of the wave of sustainable and ethical initiatives that has recently emerged from the watch and jewellery industry. The most notable among these has been Chopard’s pledge last year to exclusively use 100 percent ethical gold in their products, but 2019 has also seen watch brands like Panerai, Ulysse Nardin, and Girard-Perregaux introducing sustainable materials into their collections.
For Tiffany, however, the path to ethical jewellery has been a continuous and consistent one—the diamond source initiative is merely the latest among the many it has implemented. As it stands, 99.8 per cent of all of Tiffany’s precious metals and 100 per cent of all its diamonds are directly traceable to specific mines, suppliers with multiple known mines, or precious metal recyclers (which form a big part of the gold supply chain). Tiffany has also campaigned against opening mines in areas that could significantly impact the local ecosystem, such as one near Yellowstone National Park in the US.
Why Diamond Transparency Is Important (Besides For The 4Cs)
You may be familiar with the term blood diamonds—diamonds mined in conflict zones whose profits go to funding warlords and their military operations. Sometimes also called conflict diamonds or war diamonds, these gems are terrible and should not exist. In the 1980s, it was estimated that up to 21 per cent of all of the world’s diamonds was being sold for for unethical purposes. Today, thanks to the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme established in 2003, that amount is approximately 0.2 per cent. Problem solved, right?
The unfortunate reality is that any mining operation has the potential to exploit its workers and the environment around it. And because the various luxury jewellery and watch brands are usually not the owners of these mines, it can be difficult for them to exert control over what the mines do. What they can do, however, it choose to only source from mines that clean operations, both in terms of a lower environmental impact and on its bill of human rights. According to Human Rights Watch, companies should put in place human rights due diligence throughout their supply chain, aiming to identify, prevent, mitigate, and account for any adverse human rights impacts they may cause or contribute to. For HRW, even the much-touted Kimberley Process is not enough—and neither are the measures put in place by the Responsible Jewellery Council, which many brands regard as a blanket stamp of approval.
Beyond The Kimberley Process
Tiffany, most interestingly, also agrees that the Kimberly Process (which it had helped to develop) is no longer enough to adequately safeguard human rights and the environment. Instead, Tiffany’s unique verticalisation of its supply chain means that it can track exactly where each diamond came from. About 80 to 90 per cent of Tiffany’s individually-registered diamonds (by volume) go through its own diamond polishing workshops around the world—chiefly in Antwerp, but also in Botswana, Mauritius, Vietnam, and Cambodia. The raw diamonds that enter these workshops come from known, responsibly managed mines, most of which are in Botswana, Canada, Namibia, and South Africa. It is Tiffany’s subsidiary, Laurelton Diamonds, that manages this chain of operations.
For the remaining 10 to 20 per cent, Tiffany has its own set of standards it calls the Tiffany Diamond Source Warranty Protocol. It exceeds the Kimberley Process and requires that suppliers of polished diamonds provide a warranty that the gems were not sourced from areas known to have human rights abuses such as Zimbabwe and Angola—even if these diamonds are considered acceptable under the Kimberley Process. And yes, according to the HRW report, Tiffany is also one of the few brands that regularly conducts third-party audits of its supply chain, so it can ensure that its standards are adhered to.
For these reasons and more, Tiffany was the only brand (out of 13 surveyed) deemed to have strong responsible sourcing policies by HRW, meaning that it had taken significant steps towards responsible sourcing. Unfortunately, none of the other brands surveyed (including Bvlgari, Cartier, and Chopard) attained this level, and none of the brands were rated excellent—there is room for improvement, after all.
Tiffany is already planning their path of improvement. From 2020, the brand intends to reveal the craftsmanship journey of each diamond, from the mines through the cutting and polishing workshops.
“Tiffany & Co. has long been committed to diamond traceability and going above and beyond industry norms to promote the protection of the environment and human rights,” said Anisa Kamadoli Costa, the chief sustainability officer of Tiffany & Co. “A transparent journey of responsible sourcing reflects the many positive and far-reaching benefits along every step of the diamond supply chain.”
But it was Alessandro Bogliolo, the CEO of Tiffany & Co., who put it best; “Diamonds, formed up to 3 billion years ago and brought to the earth’s surface by a miracle of nature, are symbols of the most important moments in our lives. There should be nothing opaque about Tiffany diamonds. Our clients want and deserve to know where their most valuable, most cherished diamond jewellery is from, and how it came to be.” And after all, if that beautiful diamond you love has been tarnished by an unethical manufacturing process, is it really that beautiful?